[Marxism] Chomsky's lasting appeal
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 23 07:13:06 MST 2004
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: From Marxmail home
Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2004 23:24:30 -0500 (EST)
From: sankara83 at hotmail.com
To: lnp3 at panix.com
The Noam Chomsky phenomenon swept Vancouver this weekend. Chomsky, the
MIT linguistics professor, prolific anti-establishment writer, and
perhaps the closest thing there is to a living icon of the North
American left, spoke to a crowd of close to 20 000 at the March 20th
anti-war rally at Sunset Beach, and then followed it up with two
sold-out talks at the Orpheum theatre. It's worth looking at the lasting
and massive appeal of Chomsky, to find out what it says about the man
himself and the state of movements for social change.
The degree of his fame should first be qualified, of course. A CBC radio
host announced Saturday morning that the anti-war rally would feature
Norm Chomsky, after all. It's still a fame confined primarily to those
active on the left of the political spectrum, or else a notoriety better
defined as infamy amongst those closer to the right.
I got an up-close look at people's reaction to Chomsky's fame, as one of
the stage marshals for the rally. It was a constant struggle to keep
media and admirers away from the stage, and to explain that our 75
year-old keynote speaker needed some space while he awaited his turn to
speak. And after the rally, it literally took a ten-person, amateur
security escort to get him from the rally to his ride.
A small minority, including those who felt obliged to thrust their small
children into the dangerous scrum on his way out, reacted to Chomsky as
one is trained to respond to the sighting of a rock or movie star: “We
love you Noam!” A larger minority looked on and stared like observers of
a strange, rare animal, which in a sense, he is -- as a prominent 60s
radical still going strong and unchanged in his ideals and principles.
The overwhelming majority, though, treated Chomsky with awe and
reverence. During his 31 minute speech at the rally, you could hear keys
jingling and seagulls squawking, the silence and attention was so
complete. What other speaker in the world could get away with such a
half-hour dissertation at the end of a long rally, almost without a soul
moving or heading for home?
The first and most obvious reason for Chomsky's lasting appeal is his
four decades of intensive writing, speaking and activism against U.S.
imperial ventures, from Vietnam right up to the recent coup d'etat in
Haiti. Generations of activists got their start in politics after
reading from the Chomsky canon, or from watching Manufacturing Consent .
And his message hasn't changed. The overseas crimes of our governments
are our responsibility to confront, to denounce, and to prevent. And in
today's world of an open return to imperialism and direct colonial
occupations, it's a message that retains its urgency.
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